Publication Date

May 2001


[Excerpt] So institutions at all places in the selectivity game are thinking about their US News & World Report (USNWR) rankings. In the next section of the paper I will discuss the formula that USNWR used to compute its rankings in its America’s Best Colleges: 2001 issue and show how the elements that constitute it have altered how colleges and universities behave. Sometimes an action taken to improve an institution’s rankings may also make educational sense. However, sometimes it may not and it may also not be in the best interest of our educational system as a whole.

In the final section of the paper, I ask whether the methodology that USNWR uses to calculate its rankings prevents institutions from collaborating in ways that make sense both educationally and economically. My answer is to a large extent no. Hence, while the USNWR rankings may have caused institutions to worry more about the peers with which they compete, the ranking should not prevent the institutions from working productively towards common goals. Put another way, institutions should not blame USNWR for their failure to collaborate more.


Suggested Citation
Ehrenberg, R. G. (2001). Reaching for the brassy ring: How the U.S. News & World Report rankings shape the competitive environment in U.S. higher education (CHERI Working Paper #17). Retrieved [insert date], from Cornell University, ILR School site:

Required Publisher Statement
Published by the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute, Cornell University.